Legal Drama

AML Exclusive: Ben Bruce Silverbird TV “I am Calling You Ole! (Thief)!” Blessing Effiom-Egbe SUES! #Movie Distribution

TuFace sings in his hit song ‘Ole,’ “it feels gooooooooooood, loving somebody and somebody loves you back aaay ah!” Well, the AML case before us today, love doesn’t love you back. This is love gone wrong that is as nasty as ‘two brides and a baby’ and the Nollywood legal drama is just beginning to unfold. In fact, take the hook off TuFace’s ‘Ole’ song and substitute it here and we have a case of Blessing Effiom-Egbe essentially saying to Ben Bruce owned Silverbird TV et. al, “I am calling you OLE!” because you “reaped me off!” You stole my money. Ole! “What’s love got to do with it?” as I like to ask.

Clearly Akwa-Ibom, Cross-River State citizens don’t play when it comes to enforcing their legal rights. Don’t be fooled by the beauty of the Calabar/Akwa-Ibom people and their beautiful land. We saw Cross-River State take on Rick Ross, of course yours truly representing for the South-South via way of Lagos and USA, and now Blessing Effiom-Egbe saying, “we really don’t play that!”

A bit of context might help here and a quick light touch on movie distribution in Nollywood so you can get to the letter sent by Ms. Effiom-Egbe to AML.

Historically, one of the biggest issues in Nollywood has been distribution of our films. Yes, there are also issues with piracy but equally huge, is the issue of distribution. When compared to Hollywood and Bollywood, Nollywood was wounded and really bleeding for a long time in the distribution department. Enter 2008/2009 and we saw the advent of theater distribution and in 2011, digital distribution via IROKO TV YouTube Channel, among other legitimate platforms out there.The industry is still bleeding but not as bad.

When you watch movies screen at your local theaters, the film makers as well as the theaters/cinemas must/should be compensated. There are extensive contractual agreements that are involved on the back end to make such screening a reality for you.

Ms. Effiom-Egbe gets into quite a bit of detail and provides supporting evidence as to the nature of relationship she had with all parties below. I’ll let you all read it as she delves into the contractual agreements. There is a lot to say on this subject but I’d like to hear Silverbird’s response and all other interested parties before delving into film law with you all, specifically film distribution and the issues that emanate in these kind of contractual relationships.

NOTE: Typically, your lawyer in conjunction with their PR team would be the one sending a release out as we saw with Ms. Ayana Olubiyi’s situation. Nevertheless, read on . . .

Cheers,
Uduak
________________________
28/02/2012

To whom it may concern

ATTN: ‘TWO BRIDES AND A BABY’

NOTIFICATION OF SCAM AND IMPENDING LAWSUIT

I write to inform you of the on-going dispute I have with my film distributor Mary Ephraim ITA and Silver Bird, Ozone and Genesis Deluxe cinemas.

I had engaged the services of MARY EPHRAIM ITA’s Company – Okhma Global Limited (operating under the name and style of Homelands Distribution) as Agent and Distributors of my movie – Two Brides and a Baby – with which opened in Nigerian cinemas on the 25th of November, 2011.

Whilst I had agreed on the Distributor Percentages with her Company @ 15%, I had verbally requested from her Company a copy of the Contract, Agreement and or understandings which her Company reached with the respective Cinema Companies but her Company failed, refused and or neglected to forward the said terms to our Client even though she had agreed verbally to make same available to me.

While her Company had confirmed that the movie had closed in Silver bird Abuja on 13th January 2012, by letters dated the 14th of January and 2nd of February, I was very shocked to discover that as at 2nd February 2012, the movie was still open at the Silver bird cinemas Abuja SEC. In fact, some of my executive producers had their contacts purchase the tickets as proof of this position and I am in possession of same;

By my letter to her on the 30th of December, I had requested for the Master Hard Drives & DVDs that were sent to the Cinemas to be returned following her earlier Reports on closure of the movie in some of the Cinemas, and also for the remaining cinemas still showing the movie to stop because of the new percentage sharing system the cinemas effected which wasn’t favorable to me

She by a phone call advised that I allow for continuous run in the cinemas saying it will give the film good publicity towards the DVD release. At first, I agreed but after consultations with my executive producers, I wrote to her the very next day informing her of our final decision to stop showing the movie.

Her letter to me on the 3rd of January declared her instruction to the cinemas to stop all showing.

On the 3rd of January, I received from the distributor, the last of the usual weekly cinema schedule notification which in this case was the weekly schedule from the 6th-12th of January 2012.

This was followed by the usual daily sales reports sent to me via email.

On the 14th of January 2012, she wrote to me declaring and I quote “Two brides and a baby has finally stopped showing in all sites”

At this point, we awaited the return of the materials and payments.

So imagine my shock when On the 1st of February, a fan called me to inform me that she {the fan} was watching ‘Two brides and a baby’ my first thought was ‘oh my God, my movie has been pirated’ I literally asked her where she purchased it from but she told me she was watching it at silver bird cinemas in ABUJA SEC branch.

I spoke to a few persons who advised me to get proof and ask the fan to take a picture and send same but Since the fan had thrown away her ticket after viewing, I called on a few of my friends to go there the next day and buy tickets.

On the said day, the 2nd of February after I had gotten the proof, I engaged in a chat message with MARY my distributor on BBM to find out the status of my film Master hard drives and DVDs. I was afraid that SILVERBIRD may have made a copy of my film.

In the chat message, the distributor maintained that all of the film’s masters had been collected/sent and promised to make them available for me the very next day being the 3rd of February.

Not satisfied that this chat message was binding enough, a producer friend advised me to email the distributor a letter requesting for an up to date feedback on the start and end dates for each cinemas for my the satisfaction of my inquisitive executive producers which I did on the same day the 2nd of February.

On that same 2nd of February, the distributor replied to my request by email with an attachment of the document containing all the cinema start and end dates.

NO CINEMAS OPENING DATE CLOSING DATE NO OF WEEKS
1. Silver bird Lagos 11/25/2011 12/22/2011 4
2. Silver bird, Abuja SEC 11/25/2011 1/12/2012 7
3. Silver bird Abuja CEDDI 11/25/2011 12/8/2011 2
4. Ozone Cinema, Lagos 11/25/2011 12/22/2011 4
5. Genesis Deluxe Cinema, PH 11/25/2011 12/22/2011 4
6. Genesis Deluxe Cinema, Lagos 11/25/2011 12/15/2011 3
7. Silver bird, Uyo 11/26/2011 1/12/2012 7
8. Silver bird PHC 11/25/2011 1/5/2012 6

The distributor, in the same letter, also advised us to collect ALL THE HARDDRIVES AND DVDS of the movie on the 3rd of February 2012 at 4pm and in the same letter informed us that payments will come through on the 10th of February. And as of today, I am yet to receive a kobo.

My husband, Mr. Michael Egbe was at her office on Friday 3rd February 2012 to pick up all the Masters but to our surprise only three (3) of the entire seven sets of hard drives and DVDs allocated to each of the 7 cinemas were delivered to him.

The undelivered drives and DVDs include once sent to;

1. Genesis cinema Port Harcourt which she claimed had stopped showing the movie 7 weeks before the final claimed official stop date.

2. Silver bird ceddi which she claimed had stopped showing the movie 9 WEEKS before the final claimed stop date.

3 & 4. Silver bird Uyo and Silver bird SEC Abuja which she claimed had stopped showing 3 weeks before the 2nd of February.

Following this discovery on the continued viewing of the movie at Silver bird Cinema Abuja SEC, and further to her Company’s inability to make all the hard drives and DVDs available, I now had legitimate reasons to question and disbelieve her earlier financial daily sales report which she computed and sent to me on an excel sheet; and the opening and closing dates of the movie in respective Cinemas.

At this point, it was apparent that her Company’s records were either incomplete or distorted or somebody had resolved to breach my copyrights in the movie.

My lawyer, by a letter dated the 13th of February, wrote and delivered same containing the listings made above and further made the following demands on her Company on my behalf as the movie & Copyright Owner.

That the Contract, Agreement and or other terms/conditions entered into with Cinemas be forwarded to us immediately;

That an accurate & correct report on the opening and closing dates of the movie in respective Cinemas be made available to us. We assumed that the earlier report was either incomplete or sent to me in error;

That the outstanding hard drives and or CDs be made available to us immediately. For the unreturned hard drives and CDs, we initiated to compute date of closing from the date her Company returns the FILM MASTERS to me;

Given the circumstances, we insisted that she must avail to us the ORIGINAL DAILY REPORTS AND OR CORRESPONDENCE that was forwarded by the Cinemas to her Company.

Although her company staff by name Victoria Agbor received and acknowledged the letter, no replies were made until the date given expired.

Our lawyer proceeded to write to the cinemas having informed the distributor in her letter that he will do same should she not reply.

After seven days elapsed, silver bird and Ozone cinemas remained silent on the matter. Only Genesis Deluxe replied.

In their reply, they stated that, owing to a non disclosure agreement entered into with the distributor, they could not adhere to our demands to make available to us as the true copyrights owners of the film in dispute; the true records of proceeds gotten from the showing of the movie, the accurate stop dates for the movie and the contracts entered into; with the distributor of the movie regarding percentage share and other terms.

My lawyer went on to write again to the cinemas, this time giving them only 3 days to reply before proceeding to file a lawsuit against them.

We are also writing to the copyright commission for protection under the law and to the censor’s board to inform them of the misbehavior of one of their licensed distributors.

I have now written her a letter terminating our distribution deal and whatever other contract terms binds us and have proceeded to obtaining another distributor so that the movie gets the required distribution it deserves and not leave a gap for pirates to take advantage of and feast on.

I have also written to the producer’s guild, to bring to their notice these proceedings and asked that they look into the matter after all, if this fight is well fought and won, it will save a lot of us from going through same fate.

As it stands. Silver bird ABUJA SEC. may have copied my film and kept a copy to themselves since my distributor claims all materials have been sent to her.

Or

My distributor and silver bird connived to reap me off; of my sweat and hard work not to mention people’s monies.

Plus

Silver bird, Genesis cinemas and ozone cinemas may have all together made a deal with my distributor to steal from me. Otherwise why would they choose to with hold accounting information’s from getting to me?

There is no telling what the case might be as all parties involved have remained silent and adamant but soon they will have no option than to respond to the law because I will not relent in my efforts to bring the culprit to book.

Two brides and a baby have 6 executive producers who contributed a total of Eleven million naira with an extra four million naira coming from my hard earned savings.

I am under pressure as it were to pay my executive producers; proceeds from their investment and to make good sales from the movie DVD sales and other sales avenues.

The fact that monies have not been remitted, true accounts with held, most of my hard drives and DVD masters are nowhere to be found and on top of that to call my bluff and not make an effort to reply; gives me great cause to worry. Therefore I must fight for justice.

There are documents to support every claim I have made here in.

Thank you
Blessing Effiom Egbe

{CEO B’Concept Productions limited}
Producer and copyright Owner of Two Brides and a Baby’

TWO BRIDES AND A BABY START DATE

Africa Music Law™

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ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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